A pencil is usually a tool, but what happens when artists subvert its common usage, transforming it into a medium for sculpting instead? Extraordinary sculpting skills paired with a steady hand and a magnifying glass make it possible to carve amazingly tiny figures out of the pencil’s lead. Some artists see flowers or portraits in cast-off pencil shavings, or glue masses of the writing instruments together to sculpt and sand them into new forms punctuated by the graphite or colored pigments inside each pencil’s core.
Pencil Lead Carvings by Salavat Fidai
HBO Asia recently commissioned an incredible set of Game of Thrones-themed pencil lead carvings from Russian artist Salavat Fidai, including the sigils of each House, a White Walker, the dragons and the Iron Throne. It takes Fidai about 6 to 12 hours to sculpt each one using a craft knife, a magnifying glass and a microscope. The artist says the most challenging piece in the collection was the throne, which took over three weeks to perfect. Of course, the Game of Thrones pieces are just the latest works from Fidai, who has also carved tiny architecture, superheroes and other fictional characters, and much more.
Vases Made of Pencils by Studio Markunpoika
Hundreds of pencils are glued together into a solid mass and then carved on a machine lathe to create vases and other decorative objects, revealing the insides of the pencils. Studio Markunpoika describes their process: “‘Amalgamated’ is a collection which explores the relationship of a mass produced ‘tool’ and its individual purpose. The beauty of the pencil as an object seems to go unnoticed if utilized only for their primary purpose. ‘Amalgamated’ is a visual and tactile investigation using pencils as a raw material. This holistic principle has been the fundament for creating this set of vases; let the pencils become a thing themselves.”
Pencil Lead Carvings by Dalton Ghetti
The most impressive works by Dalton Ghetti are undoubtedly those which turn single pencil leads into chains. You can’t help but stare at each one for a while, wondering how he managed to pull them off. The fact that the artist has been refining his process since childhood might tell you a thing or two about how he’s able to pull pieces like these off – or that some of his pieces can take months or even years to complete. He also carves his tiny sculptures without the aid of a microscope or magnifying glass, using sewing needles and razor blades.
Pencil Sculptures by Jennifer Maestre
The colorful bristling creatures of Jennifer Maestre seem to have come from the depths of the sea, their appendages recalling the natural shapes of urchins, anemones, coral, octopi and jellyfish. The artist uses colored pencils as a medium for her unusual sculptures. “The spines of the urchin, so dangerous yet beautiful, serve as an explicit warning against contact. The alluring texture of the spines draws the touch in spite of the possible consequences. The tension unveiled, we feel push and pull, desire and repulsion. The sections of pencils present aspects of sharp and smooth for two very different textural and aesthetic experiences. Paradox and surprise are integral in my choice of materials.”
Pencil Lead Carvings by Cindy Chinn
Cindy Chinn takes advantage of the length of graphite contained within a pencil, tunnel-like inside the wood, and translates it into lines of marching elephants or trains. Her ‘Elephant Walk’ series was commissioned by the California-based Epiphany Elephant Museum. Of the train piece, Chinn says “This piece was designed using straight lead pieces for the rails, with the tiny carved train placed and securely glued on top of the rails. The train engine is only 3/16” of an inch tall. The pencil is 5-5/8” long and mounted in a wood shadowbox frame as shown in the photos.”